No room for austerity in NHS
Last Saturday I and tens of thousands of other people marched in London to defend our NHS; to save our NHS from the grip of the austerity which has led it to having the worst winter on record. Our demands were for emergency funding now and full funding for the future and an end to the pointless privatisation and fragmentation of services. Not just in London, but here too outside the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, local people demonstrated making the same demands. I’m told that many of the cars, taxis and hospital vehicles passing by hooted their support. A huge proportion of the pedestrians walking by stopped to show their backing too. It’s clear that the public want a radical change of direction for the NHS, and that we need a government committed to deliver it. On the London march I joined my friend, Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow Secretary of State for Health. We talked about the policies that we need nationally and the problems here in east Kent, which Jonathan knows well as I keep him regularly updated. I am certain that in government he will lead the radical change we all need so much. The day before the “NHS fix it now” march, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust launched its stroke services consultation. This is part of its so-called “Sustainability and Transformation Plan” (STP), which in truth is a plan to shave even more money from the local NHS budget. I urge you all to read the proposals for stroke services, to attend consultation meetings and to send your individual comments to the trust. You can find the details about the consultation at this website: https://kentandmedway.nhs. uk/stroke/. The local health campaign group Chek also has a petition to reinstate K&C services at http://www. savethekentandcanterbury.org/ petition. As I expect you know, stroke services have already been removed from the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. What worries me is that managers now propose only one stroke service for the whole of east Kent, based at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to centralising specialised services where there is a clearly proven clinical case. I am opposed, however, when what is driving that decision is a funding shortfall. We need to be clear that’s not what’s going on with our local hospital services. Speed of admission to a stroke specialist unit is essential for the best care and outcomes. However, many people will worry about the travel times from Thanet, the most deprived part of Kent, to the William Harvey, or from Whitstable, Herne Bay or Upstreet. Figures I received on ambulance response times add to my concern. It only takes a two-hour response time in a couple of cases in areas further from Ashford to get us into dangerous territory. That happened last winter, and I have yet to be told what is happening this winter, though I fear the worst. You don’t have to demonstrate to play your part. Please read the consultation and let’s get thousands of people from Canterbury, Whitstable and the villages, and from the whole of east Kent, telling the trust what we the people want – an end to STPS and a fully-funded NHS that works for everyone.